26th of Elul… It was a very emotional evening. Following the daily shiur given by Rav Moshe Elyashiv (Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv’s son who is now giving the shiur since the Rav’s passing), the humble shul of R’ Elyashiv ztz”l was filled with G’dolei Torah, who gave their blessings for this unique Sefer Torah.
Gracing the occasion were many Rabbanim, including several of the Rav’s sons and sons in law. The event opened with words from R’ Arieh Elyashiv shlita, the Rav’s dedicated grandson. He spoke about the hundreds of times that Sifrei Torah were brought to R’ Elyashiv ztz”l to write a letter. He recalls how in those few moments, until the Rav was given the inkwell to write, he would look at the letters of the Sefer Torah, with a longing – steeped in k’dushah.
After Rosh HaShana, another meeting was held; this time in Bnei Brak at the home of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita. He also wrote a letter as well as Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, shlita and Rav Azriel Auerbach, shlita.
Perhaps you or someone in your family has, at one point, purchased a letter in the writing of a Sefer Torah. Yes, a tremendous zchut in and of itself. Now, a Sefer Torah is being written l’ilui nishmat R’ Elyashiv ztz’l. What’s different about this Sefer Torah? And what does it have to do with Jewish women across the globe?
It has been decided with the blessing of Maran Hagaon Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, shlita to have a Sefer Torah written in memory of Maran Hagaon Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv ztz”l, in which every letter will symbolize an improvement in tzniut, modesty of a Jewish woman. As the Vilna Gaon said, an effort in modesty by women is paralleled to an effort in Torah learning by men. The original idea which was presented to the Rabbinic family is a combination of the two: Torah and modesty.
Rabbi Yirmiyohu and Rebbetzin Tehilla Abramov are well-known for their achievements in strengthening the holiness of the Jewish home, both through authoring books and through their organization JME (Jewish Marriage Education), whose goal is to promote awareness and a deeper understanding of Jewish marriage and family life, according to Torah. As the Abramovs have had a very close relationship with Rav Elyashiv ztz”l and his family for close to 40 years, they approached the family with an innovative idea.
The Elyashivs may have suspected that the project that the Abramovs were considering would be something to help klal Yisrael. And this time it was also l’illui nishmat their father, Gadol haDor, haRav Elyashiv ztz”l.
In fact, the Abramovs’ most recent book, “The Unique Princess, Understanding the Significance of Modesty in Building the Jewish Home,” which is one of the last books to have gotten approbation of R’ Elyashiv – is on the subject of modesty. So they were aware of the Rav’s opinion as to how important improvement in this area is.
How can someone be part of this exclusive project? Every woman who would like to obtain a letter in this Sefer Torah must take upon herself to learn and improve in the mitzvah of modesty, and then send $18 (or more) toward the cost of the Sefer Torah, along with her name and her mother’s name in order to receive a bracha.*
Besides the importance of working on herself, and the letter written in this Sefer Torah, she will also receive brachot from the G’dolim, who are endorsing this extraordinary project.
I asked the Abramovs,
“What gave you this idea?”
“Siyatta D’Shemaya! We all know the importance of having a Sefer Torah written and the great zchut for those involved – by donating to such a cause, and for a niftar, when done in his memory. As we were especially connected to Rav Elyashiv, ztz”l -constantly getting encouragement and guidance with our writing and teaching, we wanted to do something exceptional in his memory. We know how he felt about the mitzvah of tzniut. We cannot forget those words he once said: ‘If we fix the matter of modesty, there will be peace.’ Those words have stayed with us.”
So the idea of women giving of themselves, so that they merit being a part in the writing of this Sefer Torah, is a win-win for all involved. B’ezrat H-Shem, Jewish women, worldwide will be growing by the efforts that they will make in tzniut, which will bring bracha for all of Klal Yisrael.
Most women don’t jump for joy when being told what to do, especially when it comes to their own, personal tastes, belongings, dress and appearance. We see this, for example, when a talk is presented on the subject of tzniut and the organizers are weary to advertise the topic of the lecture. Have you gotten this far in reading this or stopped once the word tzniut appeared? Are you thinking…
After all, I consider myself modest enough; I make a (great) effort to find a garment that:
I like! I’m not so fussy – but it’s still not easy to find the style I want
reasonably priced; it was even on sale! (or I paid so much!)
my husband, (friends, mother) even like it (and that’s rare!)
A story is told of a group of people who had joined a Shabbat seminar to learn more about Yiddishkeit and their roots. As one of the participants was talking to the resident rabbi, she was about to excuse herself and step outside for a moment. She was honest and told the rabbi that she needed a cigarette and felt it was disrespectful to smoke in front of him on Shabbat.
The Rav asked her: “If you had one cigarette left and you were ‘asked to give it to H-Shem,’ would you?”
“Of course, I would!”
So he asked her to “give that cigarette to H-Shem!”
And she did.
I bet we all have an item (more than one?) hanging in our closets, one that would be hard to part with, but would be the perfect thing to “give to H-Shem.” Each of us knows where our weaknesses lie in this mitzvah. The idea is to move forward gradually from whatever point we stand now. The sacrifice may seem enormous, but the reward is even greater!
This is not being written to give you specific guidelines. These are given by the Beit Din which R’ Elyashiv made for this purpose – Mishmar HaTorah, (which also appears in The Unique Princess).
Women have the influence to fill their homes with spirituality. We have the power to keep our family’s life running smoothly, by focusing inward, on the home. If we own a computer, hopefully it is now equipped with a filter – to sift out inappropriate images and information. Can we now “filter” our wardrobes by choosing and sifting through carefully, fixing or discarding, thereby raising our level of modesty as well as setting an example for our children and others?
Tzniut is not only about our clothing, although Rav Elyashiv expressed that attire is the first and foremost aspect to be corrected.
As the Rav’s daughter, Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky a”h expressed in her approbation of the book, “The Unique Princess:”
“Terrible trouble has been thrust upon the Jewish people in recent years; indescribable tragedies of widows and orphans.
Our great rabbis were asked why this is happening and what can be done to repair matters. The rabbis have answered that it is because of a lack of modesty, and that this matter must be repaired quickly. They suggested that each and every woman take upon herself some improvement in this area.”
“Nearly all of a woman’s reward and punishment in the World to Come are dependent on modesty.” The Peleh Yoetz, in Chesed La’alafim